Francisca Ochieng took early retirement from her corporate career to setup Lheritier organic skin care company. She narrates to StartUp Magazine her journey. Ms. Ochieng’ talks about her love for organic products, overriding passion for entrepreneurship and living a healthy lifestyle.
I am a Kenyan entrepreneur bred in the United States. I hold a post graduate degree in Investment Management from CASS Business School at University of London and an undergraduate degree in Finance from University of Massachusetts. My final specialization under the Investment Management program while at CASS Business School was in Energy and Weather Derivatives. I truly thought of becoming a pioneering African woman in this field as a derivatives trader. However, I weighed the work-life balance needs that employers in Wall Street typically required and at the time I was not ready to commit to 14-hour work days.
I came to Kenya three years ago and joined a leading global consultancy firm as a management consultant, doing strategy and advisory work. After two and half years I decided to retire from corporate consultancy and pursue my passion for entrepreneurship.
I drew inspiration to set up my own firm and create dynamic products that people can enjoy and earn a living as well.
I opted for early retirement to setup a personal care company envisioned to create solution-based quality products that complement the skins of my customers.
The African man has previously been stereotyped for not taking care of his skin. However, the current generation of men want to take care of their beards, smell good and have a glowing skin. Women also want products that take care of their whole being, and something they can personally identify with; that need in the market informed me to come up with organic skin care products that are gender neutral.
Lheritier Skincare is an organic skincare company based in Kenya. Lheritier Skincare makes products that cater for all skin-related needs like bikini bumps, dry skin, razor bumps, cracked heels, hair growth and more. Our products are for men, women, families, and hospitality clients.
Most ingredients used by Lheritier Skincare products are sourced locally among African producers. At Lheritier Skincare, we use essential oils to make hair conditioners, face cream, body lotion, face toner, soaps, massage oils, masseuse scrubs, and body butter. We also take pride for being the first Kenyan company to make a fine, long-lasting unisex fragrance within the environs of Nairobi. In order to compete with well-renowned international legacy brands, we use exotic plant extracts like Osmanthus and Sandalwood to develop our fine fragrance.
The additives and preservatives used in our organic products are non-toxic and non-carcinogenic as per EWG’s guidelines.
Lessons learnt in my entrepreneurship journey so far?
There are a lot of intricacies in running a business. On a grand scale of things, we look like an economy that is very supportive to local enterprises, but the reality is stark. The state offers little support to locally owned businesses.
Most of the additives I use in my products are imported. The importation is quite expensive involving a lot of bureaucracies and bottlenecks. This by implication is that, before you start, the cost has surpassed the production red flags. It is much easier to set up DIY kind of business in the US than here in Kenya.
How did I go about raising capital?
Raising capital in Kenya is not easy. Interest rates are high compared to other geographies. I have never opted for debt funding but sourced funds from my own savings and got a majority of support from my loved ones, whom I am ever grateful for.
My younger sister acts as the vice president of the company. She is an Ivy-League educated engineer based in the US but supports the business on a full-time basis.
If an entrepreneur opts for debt funding, I advise him/her to source within family members. It would be easier to free up some shares to them without a hassle, if need be. It can also protect your business interests by limiting ownership to the family.
External investors can be a good source of funding but risks diluting your original vision. They have their own interests and you might be forced to align your business to suite that. Bootstrapping a business can be difficult but a good way to create value and enjoy your sweat.
My healthy living blog
Lheritier Skincare’s mission is to educate our clients on the benefits of healthy living. I setup a wonderful blog to this effect where I regularly share free tried-and-tested recipes, tips and knowledge on natural wellness. Our free, no-obligation blog can be accessed any time through the link: http://www.lheritierblog.com.
We have a separate corporate website and an optimised ecommerce platform for our skincare and fragrance products at http://www.lheritier1789.com where one can get our organic products.
What keeps me going?
When I left the corporate job I spent the remainder of 2016 discovering my purpose. Reflection and spiritual meditation gave me a positive mind-set. For instance when I call a supplier and he turns me down because I am a small business, I don’t freak out. That is a common thing in business, particularly for SMEs. Instead I look at the plethora of options I have and capitalise on them.
My father and my late mum also inspired me greatly. I learnt invaluable lessons from them. I have to say it is an added advantage to come from a family where the family patriarch, my grandfather was a feminist. As a result, his wonderful supportive spirit runs through my father and brother.
The responsibilities bestowed upon my shoulders as a first born also keeps me going.
I am a Mandela Washington Fellowship and Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) mentor. This is my second year of being a mentor and I have been fortunate to inspire young African leaders from Congo and Ethiopia.
I look forward to build a comprehensive global organic skin care brand. I am also at the tail-end process of developing a comprehensive online marketplace for natural products and groceries called favaherb.com. It will offer tailored shopping experience to anyone who wants to shop for all kinds of natural and or organic product, including raw material made in Kenya and East Africa.